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Poppies Evening Gown

Curated Submission
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Silk; Machine sewn, taffeta, appliquéd, embroidered
Made by Phyllis Baker
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM-2004-S-1387
Passion for design and exquisite workmanship came together in this dramatic evening gown, Poppies, created by Phyllis Baker for Just Looking...Thank You, her solo show featuring a collection of nine fantasy gowns, organized by the Saskatchewan Craft Council. Baker’s collection was circulated around the province by the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils in the 1990s. For the six months before the June 1990 opening date, Baker’s sewing machine hummed steadily along, guided by skilled hands as she worked her magic in shimmering silks and sparkling taffetas. Each of her highly original creations took between 75 and 150 hours of painstaking hand and machine work. Poppies is the most elegant of the collection, and an audience favourite. In her artist’s statement, Baker explains, “The designs for the garments personal love and enjoyment of rich fabrics, bright colours, and flower and plant motifs. Their creation brings together many years of study in design, fine art, garment construction and embroidery techniques.”
In Poppies, Baker’s love of flowers is interpreted in red-orange silk appliqué, with olive green stems and leaves on iridescent grey taffeta. Black ruffles embellish the underside of the skirt. The style is reminiscent of the 1950s, when Baker was a student of fashion design at Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University) in Toronto. Baker moved to Saskatoon in 1958 where she honed her artistic, dressmaking, and needlework skills. In 1980 she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing.
In Baker’s words, “The garments are meant simply to be enjoyed, the focus on the visual experience rather than the practicalities of wearability and saleability...Because this collection of garments would be put on display for the primary purpose of ‘just looking,’ the viewer could do just that, for as long as she wants.” Complementing the collection is the designer’s scrapbook, containing her carefully sketched designs, fabric selections, and decorative elements. Just Looking...Thank You is a delightful expression of the designer’s imagination come to life. 
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